Jamstik, a miniature MIDI guitar designed for the iPad, has gained a lot of fans since it first surfaced on Indiegogo a year ago. About a month before it gets shipped to early buyers, it resurfaced at CE Week, and it seems ready for its release into the wild.
The version of the Jamstik that we got our hands on seems to be the improved version of the prototype that showed up at CES last year. Reports of the device during the event mentioned latency between guitar strums and the audio output, an issue that seems to have been fixed.
“The kinks have been worked out and it’s ready for primetime now,” said Brian Metcalf of Green Room Social, the PR firm of Jamstik creator Zivix.
The Jamstik is a guitar MIDI controller. It’s a rarity, since most MIDI controllers come in keyboard form. It has real frets and real strings, so it’s basically like a normal guitar, only it’s a lot lighter and doesn’t have a neck. It also does not require tuning.
The Jamstik was initially prototyped with actual, full-length guitars. However, that plan was scrapped because it would require Zivix to work with guitar manufacturers. “Guitar manufacturers are terrified of the word MIDI. They hate that idea. We decided to do something that we knew no guitar manufacturer was gonna touch,” Jamstik said.
Playing the Jamstik takes a little getting used to, though because the scale length (the length of the string from nut to bridge) is a lot shorter than it is on a normal guitar. Its scale length is 16 inches, which is much shorter than the 25 inch length of a common Fender guitar. However, it’s not so awkward that it would take hours to adjust to the scales and the lack of weight.
“I always tell existing guitar players to give yourself 20 minutes with it,” said Christopher Heille, a music product specialist at Zivix.
Unlike traditional guitars that use pick-ups to translate string vibrations into electric impulses, Jamstik uses infra-red signals to read finger placements. This means that the device essentially sees your fingers, sends a signal to the iPad, and then connects to native apps.
The guitar comes with several bundled apps. Jam Tutor is for teaching guitar chords and finger placements, while Jam Mix controls different instruments for multi-track recording. It also has an arcade mode, which is basically a Guitar Hero type game for teaching guitar.
The Jamstik is still available for pre-orders at the Zivix website and at Jamstik.com for $300. For now, it’s only compatible with iPads and Mac and Windows computers. There are no plans to make a Jamstik version compatible with Android because the company says the OS has poor MIDI support. However, Heille said that they might come out with an app for the Microsoft Surface.